Fifty shades of whatever

2012-07-12 15:09

Georgina Guedes 

I am not one of the people who has bought or read the 20 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in circulation around the world today.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past year, Fifty Shades is a trilogy about a young girl who gets involved in an S&M relationship with an older, powerful man. Since I haven't actually read the books, that's about as much as I can tell you, other than it's the fastest selling paperback of all time.

I consider myself to be fairly well read, but it's not literary snobbery that's keeping me away from the series. I've been known to curl up with a trashy novel as often as the next girl, relishing the escapism contained in simple prose and happy endings. 
I also think of myself as fairly liberal-minded, so I'm not staying away for fear of being offended or horrified by what's contained in the hardcore soft porn story of Anastasia and Christian's relationship.

What does hold me back from rushing out and grabbing my own copy of the book is that it apparently started life as online Twilight fan fiction. It was criticised for being too raunchy, and removed by its author, EL James, then re-realised as the first Fifty Shades novel.

When I said I am not a literary snob, that was true, but I am a linguistic one. I only managed to get about a page and a half into the first Twilight book before the stilted and off-target language compelled me to put it aside. So to learn that EL James was a fan, and then created her own, sensual fantasy world, didn't make me want to rush to the shops with a fistful of money to own this masterpiece.

By all accounts, Fifty Shades doesn't just give the English language a light spanking; it trusses it up and beats it silly with a truncheon. And that I imagine, with a fair deal of conviction, is what will turn me off the series.

In my younger days, I worked on a publication that covered all things to do with the internet. Every year, one issue was dedicated to sex, which, if you know the statistics of how much of the internet is devoted to sex, was a moderate frequency.

It was usually our best-selling issue. It was also the issue about which we received the largest number of complaints, despite the fact that the sex section was contained within sealed pages that clearly stated what the contents would be.

Every year, I rolled my eyes at the furious missives we received from people who had been warned that they might be offended, opened the sealed section and were offended.

Given with this line of reasoning, I chose not to read Fifty Shades, not to avoid offence at the raunchy sex, but to protect my eyes from the mutilation of the language inescapably bound on its pages.

Then I started to second-guess myself. I know the heights of rage that I am propelled to when my daughter greets a meal that she has not tasted with a heartfelt “yuck!”, and I was aware that I was doing exactly that to EL James's offering.

So I turned to my old friend the internet and searched for an excerpt, just to confirm my suspicions. What I read was exactly what I had anticipated. It was as if someone gave Stephanie Meyer a frontal lobotomy, then set her writing for the adult market. 

When I got to the line, “I'm tied, literally, to my bed...”, I gave the whole thing up as the bad idea that I always knew it would be. “Literally”? Does she even know the meaning of the word? Should I literally carve the definition into her forehead? Thanks, I'm done.

On the beach, in the bath or in my bed, I'll be getting my literary kicks and kinks from some other book.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • lebogang.molefo - 2012-07-12 15:59

    What's an S&M relationship?

      Riaan - 2012-07-12 19:22

      Sadism and masochism

      gerry.pelser - 2012-07-13 14:04

      The best thing since sliced cheese! :-D

      patrick.buckley.712 - 2012-07-13 14:30

      "Eina maar toemaar"

  • mike.mcc.71 - 2012-07-12 16:18

    I guess EL James will continue to write trashy novels, selling millions, making millions and pleasing millions and you will continue to submit wishy-washy linguistic 'perfection' to sites like News24.

      mike.mcc.71 - 2012-07-12 17:19

      @Johann, define a good book.

      mike.bundy.73 - 2012-07-13 03:41

      @Johann: 20 million people say you are wrong as they thought the books good enough to buy. How do you judge "goodness"?

      mike.mcc.71 - 2012-07-13 11:50

      @Johann, wrong! What you describe is an exceptional piece of writing, a good book is any book that allows its reader to be drawn into the story thereby providing them entertainment. Once again, I have yet to see anyone mention that it is in line to win any awards, the accolade of "Best Seller" pertains to number of copies sold and nothing else.

      miss.pandalemming - 2012-07-13 13:00

      @mike.mcc.71 How do you judge "goodness"? Certainly not by popularity.

      mike.bundy.73 - 2012-07-13 13:27

      @Johann: All of what you have (rather well) stated is true . . . FOR YOU. In your *opinion* this book is not good, in the opinion of millions of others it is. It's a subjective thing, surely, if it could be measured and quantified accurately then computers would be writing our books.

      gerry.pelser - 2012-07-13 14:06

      @Mike Bundy: Budwieser is the most consumed beer in the world. That does not make it good. It just means it caters for the lowest common denominator. It just makes it the most accessible. McDonalds is the most consumed food. It does not make it good at all - in fact, probably quite the opposite. No one will mistake Bul and McD's for Rupert & Rothschilds and Haute cuisine, its just that one is easy and cheap (and nasty) and the other one requires a bit more thinking, sophistication and a thicker wallet.

      mike.bundy.73 - 2012-07-15 13:50

      Guys you all wrong - for the people that bought it and liked it, it IS good. I'm not saying it's of high quality, that the grammar is correct or that the story makes sense to an average person. But to those people it's good. It's a fact, not an opinion to be argued. Check your dictionaries.

  • neddard.mcphearson - 2012-07-12 17:27

    Oh get over yourself. The book is selling like hot-cakes, and people are ENJOYING what they are buying! Ok, so it's not a literary masterpiece by YOUR standards, does that detract from the fact that this woman's writing is touching(spanking!) people's lives and providing her with an enormous measure of success?? The fact that you've not read it is pretty poor form when you are clearly more than prepared to share your 'informed??' opinion.

      koo.doyle - 2012-07-13 08:15

      This is a column. The author is entitled to her opinion. I started to read it, but have to concur, that the writing is appalling. Anyone who loves the English language would be put off by authors who merrily murder it.

      gerry.pelser - 2012-07-13 14:08

      anything that awakens the world to S&M is good in my book - but just beacuse its of great subject matter, doesn;t mean its a good book. People enjoy eating popcorn at the movies too, by the millions, that does nto mean its good food.

  • cherholdt - 2012-07-12 19:45

    Sorry I don not want to sound stupid but as far a I know the lady that wrote the book is making millions. So I do not think she cares what you have to say about it.

      koo.doyle - 2012-07-13 08:16

      I don not want to sound stupid. So then you DO want to sound stupid? In that case, success.

      miss.pandalemming - 2012-07-13 13:05

      Yeah - and some people make millions off of transporting illegal drugs. They don't care what we think about it either, do they? Does it matter? Yes.

  • Chris-Mari Hill - 2012-07-12 20:15

    I suggest you read the trilogy, before you write a review on Fifty Shades based on your uninformed opinion. Trust me, I am well-read and love a good book. However, halfway through the first book, I decided to stop reading as I was extremely annoyed by the repetitiveness. Fortunately, I could not curb my curiousity and so I decided to continue reading before forming a biased opinion. I'm really happy that I did! While I cannot stand Twilight or any other science fiction for that matter, and Anastasia DID remind me a bit of Bella, I really enjoyed the second and third book. I would like to correct your statement of Anastasia falling for an older man, as this was not the case. They were both in their twenties which hardly makes him an "older" man. I suggest you do yourself and others reading your uninformed blog a favor - read the book and then you are more than welcome to write a review. I am more than willing to admit that I wrongfully judged the book by its cover.

  • lynette.h.ferreira - 2012-07-12 22:08

    How can you know the book "beats the English language silly" if you haven't read it?????

      mike.bundy.73 - 2012-07-13 03:34

      How can anyone that writes "hardcore soft porn" criticize others? If you haven't bothered to read it then you really shouldn't attempt a review. Rather write about a book that you actually have read. The 50 Shasdes author has sold 20 million books in ONE YEAR! How is your book selling Georgie?

  • don.quioxte.3 - 2012-07-13 09:33

    The number of fans has absolutely nothing to do with the quality.

      gerry.pelser - 2012-07-13 14:10

      Absolutely DQ, as stated, just because millions drink budweiser, it does not mean its a good beer.

      mike.bundy.73 - 2012-07-15 13:56

      Who measures the quality? Presumably those 20 million fans find the quality to be satisfactory. Gerry, do you think that Budweiser drinkers think that their beer is bad?

  • gerritdt - 2012-07-13 14:36

    Just because its popular does not make it good, that's a fact. Just because its popular sure does not make it bad though does it. Since I have not read it, I have no opinion one way or the other. And I think that's maybe the point, not having a opinion if you have not bothered to read it. And if you have a opinion about it after reading some scrap you picked up on the net. Maybe not sharing it.

  • - 2012-07-13 15:36

    So you didnt read it, and you decide you hate it......... ok............ i enjoyed it..... and by older, Christan is only 27.......

  • Alana DeWet - 2012-07-13 19:20

    The writing is truely horrible.. And the story really bit good on any level!

  • Thato Okonkwo Fakudze - 2012-07-13 20:32

    A song of ICE and FIRE

      samantha.venter000 - 2012-07-16 09:05

      I would agree with you there Thato - great series! Anyway, to all those saying Georgina is writing a review, she's not at all! She saying why she wouldn't read the book, and having read an excerpt of it makes her convinced that she's correct in thinking the terrible writing would put her off. Gosh!

  • anne.vanbinsbergenhope - 2012-07-14 10:26

    I read the entire trilogy to see for myself what all the hype was about. The writing style was mediocre at best, but the storyline, psychology and whole journey from beginning to end was intriguing. These books are filled with erotica BUT there is more. Dont judge when you have no clue what you are talking about.

  • flysouth - 2012-07-18 17:00

    I have books that I can read over and over, for the delight in savouring wonderfully-crafted prose - the subject matter is secondary. These are wonderful books. I expect that the salacious material found in the 'Fifty Shades...' book is the reason for it's high sales and nothing to do with the quality of the writing. If you want porn why bother with this? - just get it free off the Internet.

  • nkosinathi.nhlangulela - 2012-07-20 12:16

    Then I watch tv. I love my tv. then they tell me that I must watch the ...mountain. I know it disgusting but it like I am not in with the new trend. OOhhh I was so offended.

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